Sunday, October 28, 2007

Moments of Clarity

This weekend we visited my brother's family in West Virginia. I like getting out of the city for these kinds of trips. I do a lot of thinking about how we live, where we live and why it is such a big deal. I had several clarifying moments this weekend.

My sister-in-law asked me what we would like to eat for lunch. A simple question. It should have a simple answer. Like, 'ham and cheese is fine'. But Dave and I stared at each other with blank looks. Dave is a vegetarian and we are used to the vegetarian-in-the-city routine. Weekdays, Dave goes to the vietnamese restaurants near his work for a cheap, tasty sandwich. Weekends we gets slices at local pizzarias. Both of those suggestions seemed rude and snobby. We didn't know what to say. We didn't know what the options were for vegetarians elsewhere. It took us 30 minutes of discussion to finally conclude that we really didn't know and perhaps should join her at the grocery store to look around. I found the whole thing really embarrassing. I suggested to my sister-in-law that once we leave New York (?) we will become more normal and be able to answer those kinds of questions. She thought the possibility of us becoming more normal a bit remote. I think she might be right.

While we were there we also went to Target and got things like socks and lightbulbs and jammies for Andrew and measuring cups. I remember when we first moved to the city I needed a broom. And I didn't know where to go. There was no Target in Brooklyn then (there is now, but it is quite different from suburban Targets). No Walmart. Where do people buy their brooms? At hardware stores! I often felt like I had to relearn so much living here. Where to get things, but also how to get around and strategies for parking your car, and to sort grocery items by weight rather than price (we can't get apple juice, orange juice, milk and flour on the same day, one of them has to go).

While driving to a local farm for hay rides and corn mazes, we took a right turn at a red light. You can get a ticket for that in New York, so when we did it, it took me by surprise. I began feeling like everything is different in New York. I asked Dave for a list of similarities. What is the same about living in the city and living in the suburbs. We came up with: Chinese take-out and pizza delivery. A pathetic list. There are probably more similarities, but the differences often seem overwhelming.

So, I mostly have this city thing down now. I mostly know what to do and where to go and how to get done what I need to get done. And it must be fairly ingrained since seeing the other systems surprise me. Though I still have many moments when I am not quite sure I am doing it right. When I am certain local Brooklynites are looking at me funny for trying to bring the stroller into the small store, rather than just leaving the stroller outside and bringing Andrew in. I am starting to feel like a stranger in a strange land in both the city and the suburbs. But in the city I feel strange and embarrassed and sometimes scared. In the suburbs I feel surprised and reminded and a tad more confident.

I guess I am saying I would trade the easy vegetarian options for being able to turn right on red, if I had the chance.

But, I'm not the one that is the vegetarian.

p.s. These are pics of my nephews Ashton and Alex and my niece, Katie. Andrew cried hard when it was time to say good bye.


thedanceofthegates said...

You're the MK of city/country.

And three cheers for Vietnamese baguettes (a symbol of mixed culture in itself)!

Tara Whalen said...

My nephews are so cute, aren't they?
Nice costume on Ashton! It looks great!

Susan said...

Your city posts are among my favorites, too!

Isn't it funny what we adjust to? When my family comes everything is about parking. We can't go anywhere if parking is a question. Parking doesn't even occur to me. Most people drive most places in our city but we're all just used to not parking at the door to wherever we're going. This has translated into not looking for parking at the Target in the suburbs, either. I just pull up to the first spot I come to. I never look for a closer one.

This was the perfect country weekend. Glad you got to enjoy it!

Robyn said...

I know what you mean. I was with someone once and we were parking at a place like Target and we didn't get very close to the door. The person I was with (I don't remember who it was) was complaining about that and I said, "hey. we're on the same block! this is great parking!"